Milk Without rBST

By: Mike McCarthy
By: Mike McCarthy

Knoxville (WVLT) -- A couple of Knoxville supermarkets are changing their focus a bit.

The Kroger's on Middlebrook Pike and Northshore Drive officially reopened this morning, each with upgrades aimed at making grocery shopping more of a life-style experience.

Renovations include the addition of a Starbuck's coffee, expanded health and beauty care sections, and a nutrition shop.

Kroger says those two stores and all its markets in Tennessee will soon offer you milk without a common man-made hormone known as rBST.

Kroger says customers don't want it, but what difference will it make?

A summertime visit to a milking parlor will reveal a daily problem for dairy farmers.

Crammed under fans and mist, it's an "udder" battle to keep cool.

"Cow's can't take the heat too well," said Mac Pate, a Blount County dairy farmer.

Pate's 200 black and white Holstein's have sent milk to Kroger stores in the past, but most likely won't in the future.

That's because the dairy farmer has injected roughly half his herd with the synthetic protein hormone known as rBST.

Pate say's it gives his cattle an increase in milk production of up to 15 percent.

"You can produce milk cheaper by using this synthetic," he said.

rBST is synthetic, but not a steroid, and dairy experts say it's identical to a hormone the cows make on their own.

"You can pour a glass of milk that has it and one that doesn't and you can't test the difference," Pate said.

But by February of next year, Kroger says every jug of its brand milk scanned in the Midwest and Southeast, including right here in the Volunteer State, will be rBST free.

The F-D-A says there's no difference in nutrition or safety if you've "got milk" from the injected cows or others.

Store officials say the decision is based on the people pushing its carts.

"The FDA's not always right," said Ernie Holton, a Kroger shopper. "They've already proved plenty of things that have been wrong with the FDA"

"If the majority's asking for it then that's an American thing," said Denise Proffitt, who also buys groceries at Kroger. "It's majority rules and then it's a good thing."

Kroger says its milk suppliers will have to certify that their milk came from cows not treated the synthetic hormone.

Something Mac Pate is skeptical of.

"There's no test to see if they use it or not," Pate said.

So for now the Blount County cows may be hot, but his says their milk does the body just as good.

Kroger has told its raw milk suppliers that it prefers to receive milk from cows that haven't had a hormone injection in at least a decade.


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